Two of Madera County’s elected officials will square off June 7 for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
District 3 is essentially most of Madera, so both have dealt with many of the same issues during their time in office. Each takes some credit for the area’s successes, and each – especially Farinelli – blames the other for its failings. The two differ on key issues, including infrastructure within the county and the embattled North Fork Rancheria casino plan.
Farinelli, 65, took office in 2012. Before that, he worked at Georgia-Pacific, which manufactures paper products, for 30 years. After retiring from Georgia-Pacific, he started his own paper company. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
“I’m all about saving money for the taxpayer – being more efficient with less people,” Farinelli said.
To that end, Farinelli serves on more than 40 boards and committees in the county. He said he has overseen the revamping of many county departments and programs, replacing nearly 50 percent of existing staff with “more entrepreneurial types.”
“I want to focus on anything that improves social services to try and get people back to work,” Farinelli said. “Madera has a 30 percent poverty rate and 10 percent unemployment.”
Who’s to blame? Farinelli said it’s Poythress and the rest of the Madera City Council.
“Between 2006 and 2010, we had the worst City Council in our history,” Farinelli said. He believes the council members dragged their feet concerning the North Fork Mono Indians’ plan to build a massive casino just north of Madera.
Poythress, who has been on the Madera City Council since 2004 and mayor since 2012, said he did not want to bring something into the city’s sphere that he says will create 500 problem gamblers. “I just don’t see how I can embrace something like that when it will have that kind of impact on my community. Anything we can do to prevent social ills in our community – that’s where I am.”
Poythress also served as mayor in 2006 and 2011, before Madera transitioned to a strong mayor system.
Poythress, 60, has worked in banking most of his life.
He believes the county has failed its constituents by not providing basic services. He uses Parkwood, an unincorporated community of around 3,000 people at the southern tip of Madera, as an example.
“That area alone has $18.5 million in infrastructure deficiencies, including $7.5 (million) in immediate needs,” Poythress said. “The county wells dried out, so we had to hook them into the city’s water. It’s East Porterville all over again – unfortunately here in Madera.”
Poythress said that areas of Madera County can’t get fire insurance because the county supervisors can’t provide adequate access to emergency responders. He believes the board needs leadership and someone willing to work for grants to help residents.
“The county would rather focus on parks and Highway 41 development, but there are communities with basic needs not being addressed,” he said.
Farinelli said people are moving to the new developments being built near the Madera/Fresno County borders because they want to escape Madera. He doesn’t buy Poythress’ reasoning for opposing the casino, which Farinelli said would bring 1,500 jobs and millions in financial incentives to the county.
“My opponent thinks it’s evil because of 500 people,” he said. “What about the 30 percent of people in poverty – don’t you think that’s more of a sin?”
Farinelli lost a bid for the Madera City Council in 2010 by fewer than 200 votes.
Poythress believes Farinelli and the county have not done as much to create jobs and protect the public as the city has. He said that Madera has a great reserve balance in its general fund and has created 65 Neighborhood Watch programs.
Poythress pointed out that the county has had several escapes and serious fights at its correctional facility. He believes this is because the county has failed to train and retain qualified correctional officers, while Farinelli blames the state for realigning the prison system and sending dangerous criminals to a jail that never was meant to house them.
The candidates pretty much only agree on one thing: hating high-speed rail. Both believe it is a financial disaster that likely never will be finished. However, both are gearing up to battle Fresno County for a lucrative heavy maintenance facility, which also could bring up to 1,500 new jobs.
Supervisor Max Rodriguez is running unopposed for re-election in District 4, the other seat up for election this cycle on the five-member Madera County Board of Supervisors.